I recently found out that two of my friends have had an affair. One of them is married. I was floored when I learned of this a couple of weeks ago, and it compelled me to spend several hours that night with the Word and my notebook, praying to God and examining my own heart for seeds of sin that need to be uprooted and confessed before they can grow and bear ungodly fruit. I know that I am not immune to sin – any sin. None of us are. Therefore, as disciple-makers, we must teach those whom we disciple how to wage war against their flesh.

In my quiet time this summer, I walked through various passages that address how to respond to temptation, and a recurring element that I’ve found is that whatever sin we struggle with – whether it is materialism, pride, or pornography – the primary battleground is the mind. We will not live righteously if our minds are in the gutter. Whatever we sow, we will eventually reap (Gal. 6:8).

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5-6).

I remember as a child in the days of dial-up Internet dealing with the annoyance of pop-ups on our home computer. I was always quick to exit out of them. How do you respond with the pop-ups that spring to mind? What are the pop-ups that you’re allowing to linger open? This can be a huge warning signal of sin that needs to be addressed.

In combat, the side that keeps losing more and more ground will likely lose the battle. This is why we must be intentional in combating sin in our minds and not losing that crucial battleground to sin. In my own life, renewing my mind consists of setting my mind on things that are above (Col. 3:2) and filtering the things that come to mind. If a thought doesn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test (whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, etc.), then my mind does not need to dwell on it. Meditating on a particular verse of Scripture, praying, replacing the pop-up with something that does meet the Philippians 4:8 test, physically getting up and doing something active – these are all tactics that I use in fighting for purity in my thought life.

We need to be practicing such tactics ourselves as well as teaching them to the women whom God has placed in our life. Share with them how you fight against temptation. Point them to Scripture’s instruction on the topic. Remind them that they cannot resist the propensity to sin on their own power; the Spirit provides the strength to withstand our fleshly desires.

Also, don’t think that you can deal with sin in isolation. We need community. The people whom we disciple might feel ashamed to confess what they are truly thinking and what sins they are battling, but we need to assure them of our love and support as well as to remind them of the need that we all have for accountability because of our sinful state. The goal is gentle restoration, not condemnation.

All of this magnifies how depraved we are, but it also spotlights how loving and merciful God is to save and to forgive us, knowing what our hearts and thoughts are like. Praise be to God for choosing to love wretched sinners like us!